The Golden Temple in Amritsar, which is known as Sri Harimandir Sahib, is the central religious place of the Sikhs. What strikes you first is the sheer beauty of the exteriors of the Golden Temple with its dazzling Golden Canopy set amidst a serene water tank. But once you have walked in, the inner beauty of this place give you a feeling of tranquility rarely felt elsewhere. Amritsar is also where you can find a memorial for Jallianwalla Bagh victims and the Wagah Border with Pakistan where the ceremonial Change of Guards happens every Sun Set.
Amritsar has an International Airport which is 15 km or half an hour drive from the city center. Amritsar is also well connected by Trains to most major cities of North India. A free bus service operates from the Station to the Golden Temple.
Amritsar is 450 Kms from Delhi and can be driven down in 7-8 hrs via NH 71.
Auto Rickshaws are the most convenient mode o transport within Amritsar. For short distances you can also engage the environmentally friendlier Cycle Rickshaws.
The information office is the best place to start your tour of the Golden Temple. Do remove your footwear and wash your feet. Cover your head with a scarf, which is also available at the premises.
Sri Ram Das Niwas inside the Golden Temple provides free acommodation to pilgrims. It has 228 rooms and 18 halls. Pilgrims are provided basic furnishings like beddings, cots, lights and fans. Upto 3 days stay is permitted at one time.
Sri Hargobind Niwas provides accommodation at a nominal charge of Rs 50 per day. It has 92 double bed rooms with attached bath.
The day at Golden Temple begins as early as 330am when the composition Asa di Var, is sung. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is brought on a palanquin on the shoulders of Sevadars. The holy Granth is opened and a Hukam or command is taken by opening the text at random. The first composition on the opened page is read. Devotees sing the Gurbani Kirtan. Once the Ardas or Sikh Prayer is completed, Karah Prasad is distributed among the devotees.
Rehras or Evening Scripture is read at Sun Set. Weapons of the Sikh Gurus are displayed to devotees at about 8.00 p.m. at the Sri Akal Takht Sahib.
Construction of Sri Harimandir Sahib was begun by Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru, and completed by his successor, Guru Arjan Dev in 1604. The present day Golden Temple was rebuilt in 1764 by Maharaja Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. Ranjit Singh added a Gold plating and marble to the Gurdwara in the exteriors. The Golden canopy stands out with its precious jewels and exquisite workmanship. Fresco work and glittering gemstones adorn the interiors.
The Golden Temple is a 3 storied structure and is built on a square platform and set amidst a water tank. Amrit Sarovar surrounds and reflects the Golden Temple. The Golden Temple has been built using Sikh principles of architecture. The entire layout is at a level lower than the neighborhood. This is intended to induce a feeling of humility. The 4 entrances from all directions signify that people from all walks of life are welcome.
A must see is the Darshani Deorhi Arch which is 200 feet tall and is at the beginning of the causeway to the Harmandir Sahib. The bridge is connected with a circummbulatory path or Pardakshna.
Built by Guru Hargobind in 1609, Akal Takht faces Sri Harimandir Sahib and is the nerve centre of Sikhism today. All commandments affecting Sikhs are issued here. Weapons used by Guru Hargobind, Guru Gobind Singh and others are on display at Akal Takht.
As per Sikh traditions, The Golden Temple has a large Langar which feeds devotees all through the day. More than 40000 people eat here on a daily basis.
Atal Rai was a son of Guru Hargobind who died as a 9 year old child. Baba Atal is a 108 feet tall 9 storied tower was built in his memory in 1784.
The museum was established in 1958 and has a collection of paintings, coins, arms and manuscripts. It is a great place to catch up on the colourful history of Sikhism.
Jewelry like Golden Pallanquin and spades are displayed at Sri Harimander Sahib on special occasions. The occasions are birthdays of Guru Nanak, Guru Tegh Bahadur, Guru Govind Singh & Guru Ramdas. It is displayed also during first Prakash or the Installation Day of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Gurgaddi Diwas or the Anointment Day of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib.
As per Sikh tradition, every Sikh is expected at some point to volunteer for a week at the Golden temple. The Temple is always buzzing with volunteers doing all sorts of chores from peeling vegetables to washing utensils! Even if you are not a Sikh, you can volunteer and soak in this experience.
On Sunday April 13, 1919, Brigadier-General Reginald E.H. Dyer, commanded 50 soldiers of the British Indian Army to massacre thousands of people assembled for a peaceful protest. More than a thousand people were likked, mostly women and children. A memorial has been constructed on the site as a grim reminder of this horrific event during India’s freedom struggle.
The Indo-Pakistan border is drawn at Wagah, 28 km from city entre of Amritsar. It is most popular for witnessing the ‘change of guard’s ceremony’.
Hundreds of tourists come here every day at Sunset to view this ceremonial spectacle.
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